Mountain West Basketball: Colorado State vs. Nevada--Preview, Odds, Prediction

Mountain West Basketball: Colorado State vs. Nevada--Preview, Odds, Prediction

Colorado State

Mountain West Basketball: Colorado State vs. Nevada--Preview, Odds, Prediction


Mountain West Basketball: Colorado State vs. Nevada–Preview, Odds, Prediction

Rams, Wolf Pack meet in early season conference showdown & @MWCwire

What: Colorado State Rams (8-7, 0-2) @ Nevada Wolf Pack (12-3, 2-0)
When: Wednesday, January 4th – 8:30 MT, 7:30 PT
Where: Lawlor Events Center; Reno, NV
How To Watch: FS1

Stream: FuboTV — get a free trial
Odds: Nevada -4.5 Over/Under 139

The grind that is the Mountain West Conference tips off in 2023 with an interesting battle in Reno on Wednesday night, when Colorado State hits the road to take on Nevada. To the surprise of many, Niko Medved’s Rams are 0-2 in conference play, while Steve Alford has his Wolf Pack at 2-0, the wins coming by a combined eight points.

There is going to be a fine line between winning and losing in the MWC this season, as Colorado State can speak to. They played well on Saturday and still came out on the short end of a home contest against San Jose State. In years past, even a mediocre effort at home against the Spartans would net you a win; not anymore. Though the Rams didn’t shoot the ball especially well, they had an incredible 20 assists on 24 field goals, a ridiculous 83% of their makes from the floor. They also only turned the ball over two times. Twice. In 40 minutes of a game with a fair amount of possessions. Try to go back through the archives and find teams with 20-2 assist-to-turnover ratios that lose. There will not be many examples.

What went wrong? Omari Moore for one. The SJSU combo guard looked like a future pro, with a line of 29/6/5, and a series of timely 3’s. Speaking of 3’s, the Spartans connected on 13-27 (48%), which is bad enough, but it comes on the heels of New Mexico shooting 60% (15-25) in the league opener last Wednesday. There certainly will be a bit of regression by opponents coming in the Rams favor, but they themselves may want to tighten up the perimeter defense a bit moving forward. The inside play on the other hand, has been quite steady. Patrick Cartier looked great against UNM and backed it up with another solid game Saturday. Though rebounding as a whole continues to be a weak spot, freshman Kyle Evans grabbed 5 boards in only 11 minutes against San Jose State. CSU has scored 64 points in the paint in their two league outings.

Isaiah Stevens bounced back from a rough night in The Pit to post an impressive double-double, with 24 points and 10 assists. The Rams also welcomed Tavi Jackson back to the lineup, which helped in the depth department, as they remain without wings Jalen Lake and Josiah Strong. John Tonje struggled from the floor on Saturday, making only 3 of 13 shots. He’d been consistent to that point, so look for a bounce back effort from the senior.

Shifting to the Wolf Pack, they have done what they’ve needed to do to garner two wins. A hard-fought opening night contest against Boise State could have gone either way, but UNR made one more play down the stretch. Then, in what was a tricky let-down spot in a noon tip-off on New Year’s Eve, Nevada traveled to Air Force and controlled the game from the jump. The final margin was only six, but the Wolfpack were never in danger of losing the game, and played efficiently on both ends.

What Nevada has, and what will be a problem for teams to defend, is a scorer for each level. If you are weak in the paint, Will Baker is going to have a feast inside. If you are susceptible on the perimeter, Jarod Lucas (with some help from Nick Davidson) can bury you with shooting. And if you struggle to guard the dribble or your help defense is poor, Kenan Blackshear is going to light you up. He can get to the rim, he can hit a pull-up jumper, and he can definitely draw fouls and get to the line. He is in the top 20 in free-throw attempts for individuals in the country. Blackshear also averages 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game to round it out. The only knock is that he will occasionally settle for a deep three, and those have not fallen at a high rate (25%). It’s a well-balanced trio that gives Alford options if someone is having an off night.

Defensively, the metrics look good for the Wolf Pack as well. They are holding teams to 39% shooting from the field and only 31% from deep. Additionally, in their two conference games, they have allowed a combined 11 second chance points, and 17 fast break points. Nevada’s success at preventing teams from supplementing their half-court offense with points in other ways is a big reason they are 12-3.

When these teams are on offense, they share a couple of similarities. Each is very poor at offensive rebounding, willing to sacrifice pounding the glass to prevent transition baskets the other way instead. We should not expect to see many o-boards at all in this one. Conversely, they both take excellent care of the basketball, so turnovers will be at a premium. One major difference is the free throw line. The Wolf Pack, led by Blackshear as mentioned earlier, are elite at getting to the line, and they convert at a high rate when there. The Rams are not bad in this regard, just not as effective as UNR. They will need to keep Nevada off the charity stripe. Neither team is especially deep, and having Jackson back for the Rams with a game under his belt may pay off here.

This is a tough one to get a grasp on. Nevada has the better defensive team and is at home, a huge advantage across all of college basketball, but certainly in the Mountain West. The crowd at the Lawlor Events Center was crucial in the Wolf Pack’s come-from-behind win over Boise State a week ago. Colorado State comes into this one a desperate team. A loss would drop them to 0-3 in conference play and all but relegate them to the role of spoiler until conference tournament time. Truthfully the Rams may deserve better than their 0-2 mark. They ran into a buzzsaw at New Mexico, and then fell victim to the Omari Moore show down the stretch on Saturday. They have enough bodies to neutralize Baker in the paint, and the guess is Medved will have some tweaks for the leaky perimeter defense. Stevens and Blackshear may go back and forth with shot-making, but this could be Tonje’s time to shine in the late stages. Ultimately, it says here Colorado State pulls the upset and gets the win they badly need.

Prediction: Colorado State 68 Nevada 65




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